For those reading scans, hey, there’s a chapter 21 of this manga! And volumes 5-6!
TW: Higanbana no Saku Yoru ni has bullying, violence, and sexual assault. If you are sensitive to these content, please refrain from reading the manga. This review will mention those topics.
Also: spoilers for the ending of Higanbana no Saku Yoru ni, spoilers for volume 1 through 6.
Marie’s elementary school life is a living hell. She is tormented by her classmates during the day and molested by her teacher after school. Hopeless, she turns to the ‘seven ghost legends of the school’, but will the supernatural be able to save her?
(Note: To avoid confusion, I will refer to the manga itself as HGBN and the titular character as Higanbana.)
I started this manga waaaay back when I was a moody 13-year-old in love with Higurashi and Umineko. (HGBN is a standalone series, so you do not have to read Higurashi or Umineko or any other thing before this.) Despite HGBN not being part of the ‘When They Cry’ series, it does have the vibes.
HGBN follows the story of Moriya Marie, a bullying victim. She was harassed throughout the day by her classmates, and after school, her teacher Kanamori (who saved her from the bullies on some occasions) would take her to the abandoned school building and molest her in one of the toilets, while filming his activities.
Marie had no idea what to do as the bullying and molesting escalated. She later met Higanbana, or the ‘Dancing Higanbana’, the third yokai of the seven legends of the school. Whoever sees the dancing doll in the infirmary would die. Marie befriended Higanbana, who gave her the courage to confront the teacher.
However, the teacher hated that his toy rebelled against him, and so choked her to death and dumped her body in the waste tank.
Higanbana brought Marie back, and Marie killed her teacher and devoured his soul, becoming ‘meso-meso-san’ (Miss Sob-sob), the eight legend of the school. Whoever hear her sobs and open the toilet door will be crushed and eaten by her (although aside from Kanamori, nobody else became her victim.)
Okay, let’s talk about this arc first. Kanamori was such an insane, absolutely frightening and pathetic villain that all other arcs in the manga paled in comparison. He gaslighted the fuck out of Marie (something I did not notice until I reread the story), blaming her for her own misery and death. (‘it’s all your fault, if you had done this and that then you wouldn’t have died’) The whole story of HGBN that followed was basically Marie trying to save other bullied kids while trying to undo her gaslighting and prove that there’s a way to end bullying.
The older I get, the more frightening and disgusting Kanamori becomes. I was so unsettled by him as a kid, and even more so now that I realize some people like him are in working in education.
I thought the Thai release would censor out the sexual violence scenes, but nope. It’s still there. That scene where he raped Marie is still there. Honestly, I’m surprised that scene made it through censorship.
The next two arcs are kinda so-so in my opinion. They work to develop Marie’s understanding of the world and allows her to grow (and flex her powers as Meso-meso-san). Higanbana acted for her own self-interest most of the times, so her role in the story changes depending on who she’s dealing with, and that makes her interesting since you never really know what she’s up to.
In the photography arc, one thing that bothered me was that Numata, the girl that Nonomiya bullied, said something like ‘it’s my fault I committed suicide.’ She was trying to say that she should’ve held on a little longer and tried to find a way to fix the problem before killing herself, but there should be better ways to phrase it than ‘it’s my fault for killing myself’. If the person who bullied you until you decide to hang yourself showed up in front of you, would you say that?
The last arc that spans volume 5 and 6 is the interesting one. The main protagonist of this arc is Yukari, a bullied girl who tried her best to ignore the bullying. Marie noticed that her classmates were being unusually aggressive and addicted to bullying, and decided to intervene. One day, Reiko, a new girl joined the class and quickly became the new target for bullying. Reiko happily endured it in Yukari’s place, because she thought that people feel good when they know that there is someone below them, and she was willing to be someone at the bottom of the rung for others’ peace of mind.
Yukari witnessed Reiko get badly bullied for a few days by her classmates and homeroom teacher before deciding to step in. Yukari declared that she would stop being the bystander and would fight the bullies with Reiko. However, Reiko revealed herself to be Sumire of Dusk, the seventh yokai of the school legends. Sumire initially made the kids addicted to bullying so she could consume their juicy, evil souls later. Marie stepped in, but Sumire caused Marie to relive all the painful experiences from when she was alive, and knocked her out. Sumire then offered Yukari a choice: she could join the bullies in tormenting ‘Reiko’, or become the victim herself. Despite having witnessed Marie turned into a sobbing mess, Yukari still chose to not become a bully.
The next day, Reiko disappeared, and the friends addicted to bullying went after Yukari like hungry zombies. She was being stripped in front of the whole class, so she ran away, fell down the stairs, and had to be hospitalized. The class field trip followed, and while everyone was frustrated that Yukari was not there for them to bully, Higanbana made the bus carrying all the kids fall down a cliff, and only the driver survived. Sumire was frustrated but decided to let it go, because she couldn’t fight Higanbana.
Yukari was moved to another class, where she got new friends. Marie came to greet her, saying that by watching Yukari break free of the bullying, she got the answer she had been searching for. Marie became a yokai that helped vulnerable kids to stay strong, ask for help, and stop bullying.
Okay, I still don’t know what to feel about this manga. I like that the main message is that when you are bullied, you have to stay strong, and there are people around that you can ask for help. Also, it’s a good thing to step up when others are being bullied. However, there are a few lines in the manga that younger readers could misinterpret. Moreover, the manga advocated asking for help, but nobody in the story actually successfully asked for help from any adults, friends, or teachers. In the end, it was the yokai fighting each other that resolved the conflicts. Which is kinda like… you hammered us that bullying can be stopped by this and this, but then never show us in the story?
The thing that bugged me throughout the whole thing was how the girls are drawn in a sexy way. The kids are in elementary school. I get that because of the plot, they showed some skin, but holy sheet some of the panels bordered on being loli tentacle porn. This artist draw chubby thighs really well but that’s not the context that I wanna see thighs in. Overall, the art was really nice, though. I liked it a lot more than I thought I would.
Reading it when I was 13 year old was different from reading it at 22 year old. When I was 13, I was reading it just to see if Marie would make it out alive. Now, I’m seeing the messages that the manga is trying to convey lol.
I wouldn’t really recommend this manga to anyone that is not a Ryukishi-07 fan, but if you’re into manga about school yokai fights, bullying, and dark stories, then you can give this manga a try. It’s not a must-read and you definitely shouldn’t touch it if you’re unsettled by sexual violence on a elementary school kid.